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Kitchen Hack: 7-Minute Chocolate Covered Strawberries

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Kitchen Hack: 7-Minute Chocolate Covered Strawberries

    Nothing says ‘good riddance’ to the winter blues like the first crop of springtime strawberries. One of the first harvests of the year, strawberries are rich in antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C.

    Their sweet tart flavor, heart shape and brilliant red color lend themselves to being a favorite ingredient in some very complex desserts.

    Just because something tastes complex, however, doesn’t mean it has to be difficult to make.

    The French have a phrase, mise en place, which means “putting everything in its place”. The secret to quick, when making any recipe,  is to simply prepare and organize the ingredients and hardware before you begin.

    With everything ready at your fingertips, this variation on the classic chocolate-covered strawberry “Bananaberries” can be made in a mere seven minutes.

    (Note: By reading labels and choosing appropriate brands, this dessert can be made gluten-free.)

    Bananaberries

      This dessert was invented when my friend’s birthday snuck up on me and I didn’t want to visit her empty-handed. I had some organic strawberries in my fridge. In my pantry, I had a bag of banana chips purchased for yogurt sundae topping. When my eyes met some nearby white chocolate chips, the idea for Bananaberries was born.

      Everyone makes chocolate-dipped strawberries, but combination of crunchy banana fused to the juicy raw fruit with white chocolate takes this classic dessert to a new level of flavor goodness. My friend loved them and begged me for the recipe. I gave it to her. It was her birthday, after all!

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      Now, before you even think about making this recipe, be sure that can procure two pints of fresh strawberries. Because you’ll be serving them fresh, you really want use perfect berries.  Look for ones that have a crown of vibrant green leaves, are firm to the touch, plump to the eye, and do not have any blemishes or unripe spots.

      Got your berries? You may proceed.

      Editor’s Note: I’m not a huge fan of bananas so I swapped out the banana chips for pecans. Chocolate can be melted quickly if you give it your full attention and hardens faster on cold strawberries. Sarah’s closing remark about giving the strawberries away…ha! I didn’t share any of mine. =)

      Ingredients:

      • Two pints fresh strawberries, cleaned with a damp cloth and chilled
      • One 12 oz bag white chocolate chips
      • One 12 oz bag of dried, sweetened banana chips

      Hardware:

      • soft towel
      • saucepan
      • stirring utensil
      • 3 bowls
      • parchment paper
      • cookie sheet
      • chopper, food processor or blender
      • stovetop

      1. Put Everything in Place

        Dump chocolate chips into the sauce pan. Put the banana chips in the blender. Place your three bowls in assembly line order : strawberries, white chocolate (empty), and chopped banana chips (empty).  Set your cookie sheet after the banana chip bowl and cover it with a sheet of parchment paper.

        2. Make Some Crumbs


          Chop dried banana chips into a coarse yet crumb-like consistency. You want texture, not powder. Transfer the crumbs to the third bowl on the assembly line.

          3. Melt the Chocolate

            Over the lowest possible heat, melt the white chocolate chips in the saucepan. Low heat and constant stirring is key. If the chocolate boils, it will become a pasty burnt sugar mess. It may seem easier to just microwave the chips, but it is also very easy to overcook them with this method.

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              As you stir, the chocolate will become glossy, and then melt. It will only take about 2 minutes. You will know when it’s done when the mixture is just about completely melted, but there are a few chunks of soft chips remaining. Remove from the heat. Pour the melted chocolate into the second bowl on the assembly line for dipping. Stir the chocolate in the bowl until the remaining chips melt completely.

              4. Dip and Roll

                Hold the berry by the leaves and dip into the melted white chocolate.

                  Then, gently roll the berry in the banana chip crumbs. Do not press too hard, or the chocolate will not adhere as well to the strawberry, and it will break off at the first bite. Merely coat the chocolate with the banana chip crumbs. Leave a hint of white chocolate collar showing for appearance.

                  5. Air Dry


                    Place the berries on parchment-covered cookie sheet. Because the berries are pre-chilled, the chocolate should firm up quickly without having to be further refrigerated.  The parchment will keep the cookie sheet from getting dirty, which means less clean-up, and will keep the Bananaberries from sticking while they dry.

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                    6. Pair for Enjoyment

                    Assuming you’ve used perfect strawberries, they will keep in a covered box in the refrigerator for a day. Bananaberries pair well with espresso or strongly brewed coffee as the bitter, warm drink contrasts and showcases this cool, heavenly dessert.

                    7. Share with Friends

                    An easy-to-serve finger food, Bananaberries make an ideal dessert to bring to picnics, and potlucks, and parties. As long as they are kept out of the sun, the crunchy banana chip shell stays intact while being transported.

                    To give as a memorable gift, simply re-use the parchment paper as a wrapper, and nestle the wrapped Bananaberries into a brown paper sandwich bag with a penned thank-you note for a homemade, heartfelt presentation.

                    What do you think? Will you give it a try? Please let me know if you do!


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                    Last Updated on November 25, 2021

                    Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

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                    Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

                    With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

                    Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

                    In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

                    The easy fundamentals

                    First thing is first; creating a strong password.

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                    A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

                    Here are some examples of strong passwords:
                    * i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
                    * ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
                    * mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

                    And not so good examples
                    * sammy1234
                    * password123
                    * christopher

                    You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

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                    Managing your passwords

                    I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

                    So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

                    There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

                    Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

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                    LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

                    Upkeep

                    You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

                    There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

                    Alternatives

                    You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

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                    1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
                    2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
                    3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

                    These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

                    So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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